Big Guy’s big goal
What is it, I asked, fearing the answer would involve violence and mayhem performed upon his brother.
I want to be a brown belt by this time next year, he said.
Oh, good. Not only does his goal include the potential for violence and mayhem against his brother, but it also includes learning how to do so more proficiently. Not to mention weapons - nunchucks, sticks and staffs. It's a good thing we saved the headgear Big Guy's outgrown. Boots' noggin might need it.
And it's all the fault of Big Guy's sensei that the idea of having a goal even entered his noggin.
She's always talking about having goals, having plans. She's told her students several times that she knew at age 11 that she wanted to teach karate when she grew up, but just knowing that she wanted it wasn't enough. She also had to work hard to make it happen.
The four stripes on her black belt tell them that she's the real deal, but they don't tell the full story and neither does she. She never mentions that she's won more than 50 competitions, including a national women's championship. Frankly if she did it'd ruin it for me. I like that Big Guy, who's overly impressed with his pile of athletic bling accumulated just for showing up, values his karate belts because he's had to persevere to earn them. He doesn't know that one day more metal could be involved.
"R, can you tell me what 'perseverance' means?" his instructor asked an 11-year-old during class last month.
R, a red belt and class clown, scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Um, can I have a dictionary?"
She moved on to a teen-age brown belt. "Can you tell me?"
"It means to stick with something," he said.
"That's right. You were a yellow belt for a long time, weren't you?" she asked, gesturing toward Big Guy. "But you stuck with it. You persevered."
Yes, he did. And though he had to be reminded for two tests in a row that you can't pass if you don't practice, he finally gets it. Goals, perseverance. Working on something not until you've kind of sort of learned it enough to get by, but until you've nailed it. The concepts finally have clicked.
A brown belt in a year is an audacious goal. It's only three more belts, but they're tougher belts than the three he earned in the past nine months. They require more stripes with more intricate combinations and more skills. They require, not only nailing what you've just learned, but making sure you're razor-sharp on the old skills as well.
How much harder is it? In November, not a single one of Big Guy's blue belt classmates earned a single stripe. In the old days they all would have had at least one stripe in a month, and many would have had multiples.
"There's a chance you can do it," I told Big Guy. I'm not one to sugarcoat things with excessive assurances - especially not on something that's going to push him. "But you know what you're going to have to do, don't you?"
"Yes," he replied. "I'll have to work hard. And practice."
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.